First published in the Guardian on 30 March, 2017
Shostakovich: Preludes and Fugues
Peter Donohoe (Signum)
Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues pay tribute to JS Bach, but are they parodies? Sometimes they sound it. Peter Donohoe doesn’t think so. Even where Shostakovich’s music is often mined for sarcasm or doublespeak or coded messages, Donohoe treats these piano miniatures with utmost sincerity. His new recording of the complete set isn’t introspective or showy; it isn’t overly reverent or sensationalist. Above all his playing is frank, sometimes to the point of plainness. The A-major fugue could be beguiling — he describes a ‘naive wonderment’ in his booklet notes — but he goes at it staunchly. The biting black comedy of the prelude that follows delivered straight. Elsewhere, though, there is immense dignity and power in Donohoe’s directness. He summons thunderous storm clouds in the D-minor fugue then makes the arpeggios of the D-major Prelude as sparkling as a stream, and the most questioning moments — the three cadences at the end of the F-minor prelude, for example — are thoughtful and poignant.